Portrait commissions: how to photograph children and animals

For shots of children and animals, keep your camera equipment simple and light so you can have it always on you. The key to a good shot is engaging your subject.

Get them used to the camera

The best shot is a candid one, when they have forgotten the camera. Lower your face from it to show your own eyes from time to time. 

Focus on the eyes and get in close

If there is light on your subject's face, falling on their eyes, it will make the photo instantly come alive. If they are not facing you, focus on the eye that is nearest. Mouths closed (in the case of children) work best for photographic references used by artists. 

Get down to their level

If safe to do so, take the shot at your subject's eye level. You can even get creative to exaggerate the size of your child by getting lower than their eye level and shooting upwards.  

Try to make your child's or pet's face the brightest thing in the photo

This doesn't work for all occasions but you can move your angle to photograph them against a dark wall rather than a very bright sky, for example.

Keep the background simple

To focus on the animal/child. Cropping can allow you to fill the photo with more of what is important.  Off-centre shots can be more interesting.

Consider shooting your children from behind

Drawn commission of two siblings by portrait artist Stella Tooth

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